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Appetite City: A Culinary History of New York Hardcover – October 13, 2009


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: North Point Press; First Edition edition (October 13, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0865476926
  • ISBN-13: 978-0865476929
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 7.9 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #209,422 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Paris has better French restaurants, Madrid has better Spanish restaurants, and Tokyo has better Japanese restaurants, Grimes concedes, but no city... offers as many national cooking styles, at all price ranges, as New York does. It wasn't always this way. As Grimes points out, it wasn't until the early 19th century that Manhattan and Brooklyn's culinary offerings extended beyond boardinghouse and tavern. His lively, profusely illustrated history veers in one fascinating direction after another, from the proliferation of oyster houses in the 1800s to the original recipe for chop suey. Grimes hits all the obvious high points—Delmonico's, the Automat, Le Pavillion, etc.—but also puts a spotlight on forgotten venues like Forum of the Twelve Caesars, an outsized theme restaurant from the same company that owned the Four Seasons. He gets personal in the final chapter, describing the scene of the late 1990s and early 2000s from his front-line perspective as the restaurant critic for the New York Times. (He has since moved on to the book review desk.) All the material is so fascinating that you'll wish every chapter was at least twice as long, but it's hard to imagine a more entertaining introduction to the subject. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

Praise for Appetite City:

“The latest book [from William Grimes] is a chronicle of New York’s transformation from a Dutch village at the edge of the wilderness to what he sees as the most diverse restaurant city in the world . . . As for today’s ‘era of the entrepreneurial superchefs,’ this vivid and vastly entertaining history positions it as the latest but hardly the final chapter in the culinary saga of the city with the bottomless appetite.” —Dawn Drzal, The New York Times

“If H. G. Wells had decided to send his Time Traveler to report on the early restaurants of New York, I doubt he could have provided us a much better description of the city’s rich culinary history than the one William Grimes has just written. Grimes, a longtime food writer for The New York Times . . . looks back, tracing [New York’s] bewildering maze of food cultures and traditions, from its early markets and oyster bars to today’s molecular-gastronomy-influenced restaurants . . . he touches on an amazing breadth of subjects—beautifully, thoroughly, and with a depth of research . . . Join the author on his time-traveling journey through New York’s rise as an appetite city, and you will be richer for the experience.”—Julie Gunlock, National Review

“[New York] is not the most important restaurant city in the world, one could argue, but that’s not the right argument, Grimes suggests. He walks us from restaurant-free streets of the early 1900s to open kitchens of 2004, and through a brisk, fun study of how a culinary afterthought became the most complex and irritating restaurant city on the planet.” —Christopher Borrelli, Chicago Tribune

“In his fascinating Appetite City, William Grimes shows us how New York became, arguably, the best food city in the world. This is a wonderful book!” —Jacques Pépin, author of The Apprentice: My Life in the Kitchen

Appetite City, as all books on New York should be, is rich in social conflict and fun. The paradox makes for great food history.” —Mark Kurlansky, author of The Big Oyster and The Food of a Younger Land

“Elegantly written and meticulously researched, Appetite City is a must-read for anyone who thinks they already know everything there is to know about the New York restaurant world.” —Tom Colicchio, chef/owner, Craft Restaurants

“William Grimes is a certified expert on New York’s culinary world. I can’t think of another person who could have achieved what he has in this engrossing and enlightening book.” —Bobby Flay, executive chef, Mesa Grill

“William Grimes has written a masterful and engrossing culinary history of New York. It’s a veritable feast of anecdotes that will satiate foodies for years to come.” —Drew Nieporent, restaurateur (Corton, Tribeca Grill, Nobu, and Centrico)

Appetite City is a rollicking tale of big spenders, outsized appetites, and the way high rollers in New York made spectacles of themselves. Telling a story of celebrity restaurateurs, local delicacies, and New York’s rapidly changing taste and complex social rituals, Grimes has made an important contribution to the social history of New York.” —Eric Homberger, author of The Historical Atlas of New York City

“New York’s role as a fancy food capital began in the early 1800s as a pastry shop near the foot of Manhattan, run by two brothers—Giovanni and Pietro Delmonico from Ticino, the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland . . . Grimes’ culinary history intensively covers eating and eateries in the most recent half of the city’s 400-year existence.” —Carl Hartman, Associated Press
 
"Former New York Times restaurant critic (1999–2003) Grimes chronicles New York City's colorful culinary history from the early 1800s to the present. He notes the first takeout restaurant, the Eastern Coffee House, which advertised in the New York Post in 1813, and he describes the abundant seafood surrounding the city—huge Hudson River sturgeon and oysters as large as a dinner plate in the bays of Staten Island that were a staple of working-class diets. Tracing the migration of restaurants northward on Manhattan as the population moved, Grimes explains how Italian food arrived in the 1880s with the wave of Italian immigrants. The modern coffee shop appeared in the early 1900s. Photos accompany stories of the owners or developers of such classic New York restaurants as Schrafft's, the Horn and Hardart Automat, the 21 Club, Longchamps, and, more recently, Windows on the World and the Russian Tea Room. Footnotes underscore the thorough research completed for this well-written book. VERDICT: New Yorkers, readers who enjoyed Mark Kurlanksy's The Big Oyster, and those interested in food, cooking, and restaurants will enjoy this fascinating history."—Christine Bulson, Library Journal
 
"'Paris has better French restaurants, Madrid has better Spanish restaurants, and Tokyo has better Japanese restaurants,' Grimes concedes, but 'no city... offers as many national cooking styles, at all price ranges, as New York does.' It wasn't always this way. As Grimes points out, it wasn't until the early 19th century that Manhattan and Brooklyn's culinary offerings extended beyond boardinghouse and tavern. His lively, profusely illustrated history veers in one fascinating direction after another, from the proliferation of oyster houses in the 1800s to the original recipe for chop suey. Grimes hits all the obvious high points—Delmonico's, the Automat, Le Pavillion, etc.—but also puts a spotlight on forgotten venues like Forum of the Twelve Caesars, an outsized theme restaurant from the same company that owned the Four Seasons. He gets personal in the final chapter, describing the scene of the late 1990s and early 2000s from his front-line perspective as the restaurant critic for the New York Times. (He has since moved on to the book review desk.) All the material is so fascinating that you'll wish every chapter was at least twice as long, but it's hard to imagine a more entertaining introduction to the subject."— Publishers Weekly

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Jean Baptiste on December 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I started this wonderful book not knowing what to expect. In it I found not only meticulous research but also an evocation of a past New York. We travel with the author from the brawling port of early nineteenth century New York where cuisine would hardly be the word to describe eating habits into the increasing sophistication of an International destination. Filled with references to actual dishes and menus , to the individual restauranteurs who risked and won or lost, and the chefs, waiters and busboys who manned the kitchens the book reveals through the lens of food the excitement , brashness, and vigor of New York over almost 200 years. In the final chapter we find a personal memoir of Grimes' tenure as critic at the Times. It reveals the author's serious dedication to establishing an analytical approach to food criticism as well as revealing the truly nutty and competitive world of restaurants in contemporary New York. Grimes has a ability to encapsulate in a single phrase many convergent social, philosophical and historical forces that spread the narrative far beyond food and into how we live our lives. I recommend this book heartily to anyone who likes to eat, dines out, and is interested in New York.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Primo on November 11, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Well researched,gracefully written, and well designed. Unfortunately,the inferior way in which the book's many illustrations are reproduced is not equal to Mr.Grimes' prose or his insights. The publishing equivalent of a fine silk purse stitched with cotton twine.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ginny Homer on December 19, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book took me by surprise. I could not have imagined that a tale of defunct restaurants could be so lively and so funny. Mr. Grimes has managed to summon up, generously and with great wit, bygone places, people, and an entire era.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Albert Simons on December 14, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Grimes is an excellent writer who really brings his subject to life. I found myself immersed in the tastes and excitements of New York from the 1800's until the present. In the author's capable hands, food becomes a fascinating prism in which to understand the history of a great city.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Edie Sousa on January 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover
My overall impression of this book is that Mr. Grimes was exhausted after doing the research, which I must say was extensive and scrupulously done. I can only imagine the vast amounts of information that were available. But, having found it all and strung it all together, he failed to find the statue hiding in the marble. As he approached the end, it became more of a timeline: and then there was, and then there was, and finally. Where was the editor on this project? In my opinion, what should have been a lively history of a rich topic read more like a somewhat humorless dissertation. There were moments of comic relief, but overall I feel that the subject deserved better.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By 1000Books on July 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover
If you're looking for a witty guide through the history of food in NYC, that's just not the author's writing personality. Try a different book. That said, books I've seen of that nature often have the air of snobbishness that comes from food the highfalutin foodie types that no one really can stand.

This book is just down to earth history about what happened, why it happened and why it is no longer here. Just a simple but fantastic book about the history of the restaurant business in New York. Aside from making me really hungry, it makes me look at the city's food business in a very different way, i.e. from both historical geography to proximity to business, to necessity all together. To clarify, it's obvious that you're going to find certain restaurants in certain areas. However, is it obvious how that all came to pass and why that specific type of restaurant in that specific manner relative to what exists elsewhere and before it's time? Perhaps to some, but not to me.

The history provided as the reasons for diner and cart culture in NYC was really fantastic. It was an absolute pleasure to learn about how little tea houses came into being. Some of the older names and newer celebrity names are featured throughout making for an interesting tale of the growing landscape of how one "makes it" as a restaurateur.

I particularly loved the description of the German automatic machines. I think I saw a random place on the LES or East Village that still uses this type of vending system. Didn't have time to explore and stop in, but this book has truly inspired me to take a look.

Fascinating for NYer and Non-NYr alike.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Barbara Benson on May 28, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is so terrific, I have already purchased three copies to give as gifts. Whether it's food or history you're into, this is a must for your culinary library.
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